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Night at the Museum


I love much of this art, and I admit that perhaps Spector’s codification was necessary. Maybe paring down the messy reality was the way to make this show happen. But too much was lost on the way. Admirably, hers is the first big exhibition devoted exclusively to the group in an American museum. Given how prim and bland it is, I hope it will be the last.

Which brings me back to my no-sex-in-the-museum evening. Höller’s hotel room—booked solid at $259 to $799 per night—is the highlight of the show, and is too good to miss. After my wife canceled, I went anyway, alone. Arriving was fun: I was greeted at the door, got signed in, and was shown to my room. As the guard, Joseph, watched, I hung up my coat, unpacked, and set up my bedside table. After showering in what looked like a swanky executive bathroom upstairs, I changed into pajamas and a robe, and began roaming the museum (at one point sneaking into a classy office to put my feet up on the desk and pretend to call Bilbao). I lay down on floors and stood in empty galleries. At first, it was all a delight. Then it got weird. I felt very alone, as if I were in one of those last-person-on-Earth films. Paranoia set in, as the museum turned into a modernist minimum-security prison, a panopticon, and instead of feeling in control via looking at art, I felt like I was the thing being looked at. OMG, were there cameras trained on me? Probably.

So I went to bed. As I lay there, I heard strange sounds—fans whirring, echoes reverberating. I couldn’t sleep, despite earplugs and an eye mask. I began counting all the shows I’d seen here over the decades. Eventually, that did the trick, and around 2:30 a.m., I drifted off. The next thing I knew, Joseph was tapping his walkie-talkie on the bed, saying “Get up.” I had slept the sleep of the dead. I took off the mask and saw that the lights were on and workers were moving about. It was 7:30. As breakfast (tea, croissants, pain au chocolat) was wheeled toward me, I noticed that I felt refreshed—that the Guggenheim, where I’d been a thousand times, looked utterly new to me. I was in love with the place. The museum had become a cradle of sorts; the environment seemed whole and enveloping. I had the strange feeling of having merged with the structure, like we really had slept together.

The next week, when I returned to the show by day, I noticed that when I passed by the bed where I spent that night, I was filled with tender feelings. It was like walking in a city and looking up at a window in a building and remembering a long-ago night when you’d had sex there. Weirdly, however, I was also filled with something like jealousy. I felt like “my museum” was sleeping with everyone else. I found myself wondering why the Guggenheim hadn’t called the next day.

Guggenheim Museum. Through January 6.



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